Friday, December 21, 2012

A good state of health

To complete a trilogy of articles in December about British antiquarians, today marks the 180th anniversary of the death of the long-lived William Bray. A popular solicitor in Surrey, he also worked as a clerk for the royal household for most of his life. Not only did he transcribe the journals of John Evelyn, one of the most important early diarists, but he kept a diary of his own - full of short and sporadic entries - for more than 75 years.

Bray was born at Shere, Surrey, in 1736, the youngest of the three sons who survived their father. He was educated at Rugby, and then articled to a lawyer in Guildford. In 1761, he was appointed a Clerk of the Green Cloth, in the St James’s royal household, a post he held for nearly 50 years. He married Mary Stephens in 1758, and they had eight children, of whom only a son and two daughters lived to maturity. When both his older brothers had died without children, Bray inherited the manors of Shere and Gumshall in Surrey.

Over time, Bray became solicitor to many county families, but was also steward of Surrey manors, treasurer of charities, and an indefatigable antiquary. In 1777, he published Sketch of a Tour into Derbyshire and Yorkshire. He joined the Society of Antiquaries, and became its treasurer, and, on the death of the Rev Manning in 1801, he took over his work on compiling a history of Surrey, a work published in three volumes over the next 15 or so years. He also transcribed John Evelyn’s now famous journal, and edited his memoirs.

From 1785, Bray was a regularly contributor to the Gentleman’s Magazine, writing first literary articles and later focussing more on antiquarian discoveries and the history of Surrey. He also contributed articles to Archaeologia, the transactions of the Society of Antiquarias, and was treasurer of the society for two decades in the early 19th century. He died on 21 December 1832, aged 96. For more biographical information see Wikipedia, Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 92 (2005), or Exploring Surrey’s Past.

Bray’s own diaries were first published privately in 1876, and then reprinted, with some omissions, by the Surrey Archaeological Collections Vol. 46 (1938). In 2008, Bray’s diaries were in the news because a 1755 diary of his came to light - pre-dating all published diary material - which appeared to contain the very first reference to the sport of baseball, see Base ball and cricket records. Here are a few extracts from Bray’s published diary. Although the first entry is in 1756 and the last in 1832 - covering 76 years - the entries are often very brief and few and far between. For instance, the two extracts below for the year 1796 are all that were published for that year.

18 March 1767
‘It pleased God to release my child William from his sufferings, when half a year old he was seized with convulsions which never left him.’

9 June 1767
‘With Mr Hollingworth to the Downs Guildford Races. Sir John Evelyn being taken ill, went off the Downs to Wotton.’

19 June 1767
‘Jack was taken with the smallpox, and on the 28th the dear soul died. Polly was taken on the 1st of July, I sent for Mr Kerr who gave her Sutton’s powders, and she recovered.’

22 December 1767
‘With Mr. Waddington to Drury Lane; “ Suspicious Husband,” Mr. Garrick.

14 December 1796
‘My wife died about 5 in the afternoon; the most affectionate of wives, tenderest of parents, and most sincere of Christians; to her great prudence and discretion I owe the prosperity with which God has blessed me.’

24 December 1796
‘Very hard frost.’

15 November 1806
‘This day, I completed my 70th year, without having ever met with any accident of consequence and with very little interruption to my health, except in January last, when I had a very serious attack by an inflammation in my lungs, but from which I am perfectly recovered. My eyesight is so good that I can and generally do use my eyes in reading or writing from the time of getting up in the morning till 10 at night. My hearing is in no way impaired. I have not lost one front tooth and very few others. I am able to walk or ride 4 or 5 hours together, but I do not ride fast. My memory is perhaps not so good as it has been. On the whole I seem to be in a perfect good state of health, thanks be to God.’

15 November 1808
‘This day I completed my 72nd year; and thanks to God’s mercies I find myself in as perfect health as I ever enjoyed in my life, and the only perceivable difference in any of my senses that I am aware of is a little degree of deafness in my right ear, but as the other is perfect, I do pretty well. My left eye I think has not perfectly recovered the severe inflammation which I had two or three years ago, but the other being sound, I read and write as well and as much as ever. My teeth remain perfect in front and without any additional loss to those which decayed some years ago.’

15 April 1810
‘I quitted the Board of Green Cloth, after having had a place there for 49 years and a half. I was put on the superannuation list at my request, the Lord Steward having kindly procured leave for it. He also, unsolicited, gave me leave to resign my place of Clerk of the Verge to my son.’

14 November 1810
‘After dinner, I found a giddiness in my head making me unable to walk, and a kind of dumb confusion in my head. I wrote to Mr. Heaviside to come, which he did and ordered immediate cupping. The next morning my complaint was gone.’

30 May 1814
‘Received from Mr Sydenham Malthus the melancholy news of my son’s death at Exmouth, from the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs.’

19 September 1896
‘With Mary and Miss Davis, in a chaise, by Horsham and Henfold to the ‘Albion’ at Brighton. Dined and lay there; walked on the Chain Pier.’

24 December 1828
‘Such has been the decay in my eyesight the whole of this year that I have not been able to read either print or MS., though I have continued to write letters, as I am writing on this 24th of December. I cannot read it when written. I have also lost my hearing in one ear in a great degree; subject to this, my bodily health has been what may be called good. I have been obliged to pay more than 1,100 pounds by the treachery of a clerk, and the malice of one who had been long attempting, and at last effected a loss of long friendship with Mrs. Wigzell.’

5 July 1832
‘Mr Linnell, a portrait painter was sent by my grandson Reginald to paint a portrait of me. I had five sittings.’

Monday, December 17, 2012

A cold clownish woman

After yesterday’s William Cole anniversary, today is the 380th anniversary of the birth of another English antiquarian - Anthony Wood. Although Wood’s diaries are dryer and more impenetrable than Cole’s, they do have some interest, and are valuable for being relatively early in historical terms.

Wood was born in Oxford, on 17 December 1632, and educated at a free grammar school and Trinity College. In 1647, he entered Merton College and was made postmaster. During subsequent years, he seems to have developed an interest in ploughing, bell-ringing and violin-playing. He published a book of sermons preached by his late brother Edward. Thereafter, he steadily investigated local antiquities, as well as researching into historical records, and this led, in 1669, to publication of Historia et Antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis.
In 1678, Wood was relieved of the university registers, which had been in his custody for the best part of two decades, because it was thought he might be implicated in the Popish Plot. Subsequently, to recover his position, he swore oaths of allegiance. In 1693, though, he was banished from the university for a libel in Athenae Oxoniensis against the late Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, but he then recanted. It is said that Wood was an uncouth man, but one who led a life of self-denial, and devoted himself entirely to antiquarian research. He died in 1695. Wikipedia has more biographical information, as does the Notable Names Database.

There would not be much to remember Wood by were it not for the scholarly five volume biography put together by Andrew Clark, Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. This was published by the Oxford Historical Press in the 1890s under the title The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, antiquary, at Oxford, 1632-1695, described by himself. The volumes were collected from Wood’s ‘diaries and other papers’, and, indeed, there are numerous references and quotations from the diaries in the first three volumes. However, all the diary entries are heavily annotated, with additions (in brackets) and notes, and often taken second place to the text and chronology of Wood’s daily life as constructed by Clark. Moreover, the diary entries themselves are largely rather dry records of events.

All five volumes are freely available at Internet Archive. Here are a few extracts to give a flavour of Wood’s diary (the parentheses are all by Clark).

9 May 1671
‘At 7 in the morning the King’s crowne endeavoured to be taken away by (Thomas) Blood and his son and 3 others out of the Tower of London, but 3 of them were taken. The said Bloud and his son, who call themselves by the name of Hunt, were 2 of those 6 that set upon the duke of Ormond a little before last Xtmas, and they now confess that they had a designe to sell him to the Turks, because that by his meanes they had lost their estates in Ireland while he was Lord Deputy.’

24 June 1673
‘Midsomer day. Din’d at my brother Kit’s. Cold meat, cold entertainment, cold reception, cold clownish woman. Talking of players and praising them, shee asked me to goe with her and give her a play: ‘if I had money I would, I must be forced to borrow of my brother’ - I told her. Then shee began to extoll Mr. (Edward ?) Fettiplace and Den(nis ?) Huntingdon for cloiying with curtesies, doing any thing that she desired. I told her ‘if I had it, or were in my power, I would doe it.’ She told me that shee ‘had 300li. per annum and scorne(d) to goe.’ I told her ‘I came to be merry and not be scolded at.’ Shee, angry at the word ‘scolding,’ told me ‘if I did not like it’ (the diet), ‘I should leave it.’

14 July 1673
‘M., Mr. (John) Shirley, the Terra filius, of Trinity College, appeared and spoke a speech full of obscenity and prophaneness. Among the rest that he reflected upon, was me and my book: that I made it my employment to peere upon old walls, alters, tombes &c.; that I threated to geld the translator for gelding my booke; that I should say that he had altered my book so much that I did not know whether it was French or Latin; that I perused all privy houses to furnish me with matter to write my book (i.e., meaning from the shitten papers); and when all was done, my book was but fit to returne there againe, etc. But so obscure and dull it was, that few could understand who he meant or what, and therfore had no applause: all looked upon Dr. Wallis, but none upon me who sate within two places (?) of him (one of Peers’ low drunken company). But this was my comfort, that what he had uttered to my great disgrace, the vicechancellor in his concluding speech recruited all againe for upon speaking of the eminent men that have sprung from the University, he said that he would leave it (being too long to recite) to a book that would lately come forth.’

8 July 1693
‘Musick speech, (Hugh) Smith of Univ. Coll. spoke in the Theater. Above 2000 in the Theater, as many as in the great Act 1669, or when the Morocco ambassador was here. Mr. Smith was very baudy among the women: (he had) a grand auditory, while some lecturers had none - so you may see what governs the world. In the afternoon full againe.’

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cole visits Walpole

William Cole, an English clergyman and antiquarian best remembered for his long friendship with Horace Walpole, passed away 230 years ago today. Cole was curiously reluctant to put much of his learning and research into print, though he did bequeath a large collection of historical documents and his own extensive writings - including some diaries - to the British Museum.

Cole was born in the parish of Little Abington, Cambridgeshire, in 1714. He was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in Cambridge at a very early age, and then was educated at Eton. Although an unhappy schoolboy, it was at Eton that he started, what would become, a lifelong friendship with Horace Walpole. He went on to study at Cambridge, graduating in 1737, and being awarded an MA in 1740. Having inherited money, he travelled frequently on the continent (and in Scotland, too), and several times thought about retiring abroad.

In 1745, he was ordained as a priest, and took a living at Hornsey in 1749. However, he was unhappy there, and not able to leave until 1751. A little later, in 1753, he became a rector of Bletchley and remained so until 1767. After leaving Bletchley he moved to Waterbeach, near Cambridge, and then to Milton. Throughout his life, Cole indulged his passion for antiquities, becoming one of the most learned men of his generation; he bequeathed 114 folio volumes to the British Museum. He died on 16 December 1782. There is more information available at Wikipedia and the out-of-copyright Dictionary of National Biography.

Cole was curiously shy of publishing, and much of his reputation today stems from correspondence with Walpole which was preserved and published. However, Cole did also keep a diary for some years, and it was publication of this, in 1931, which enhanced Cole’s reputation, and brought him a wider public. Cole’s dary was edited by Francis Griffin Stokes and published by Constable in two volumes: The Blecheley Diary of the Rev. William Cole, 1765-67 and A Journal of my Journey to Paris in the year 1765.

The following two extracts are not taken from either of the above volumes but from the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence with the Rev. William Cole II, edited by W S Lewis. (Quotes from which can be found in Horace Walpole: The Critical Heritage and English Historical Documents.) The original diary accounts are in the 114 volumes Cole bequeathed to the British Museum.

30 October 1762
‘Sir William Stanhope, brother to the Earl of Chesterfield, now lives in Mr Pope’s house on the banks of the Thames; you pass over his grotto, immediately under the common highway, as you come from the town of Twickenham to Mr Walpole’s house of Strawberry Hill. Next to it is the house belonging to the late Earl of Radnor, which is the last house on the Thames bank next to Strawberry Hill, a road going by the Thames-side to Kingston Bridge, being between the river and Mr Walpole’s garden, which, however, is within a furlong or two of the river, and his own meadows go quite down to the banks of it, and nothing to obstruct the view of that most beautifying fluid, which makes everything handsome that is within its influence. From the garden you discover the elegant Chinese Temple, being the last building on the bank of the Thames, and close to my Lord Radnor’s house or garden wall - though the house belonging to it is on the other side of the road, and is the last house on that side next to Strawberry Hill, and is an handsome new square building - I say, from this garden of Mr Walpole you discover the Chinese summer house in which, about last August, Mr Isaac Fernandez Nunez, a Jew, shot himself through the head, on the loss of the Hermione, a rich French ship which he had insured, and by that means ruined his fortune and family. His house and furniture were sold by auction while I was at Strawberry Hill, and I was at the sale for a few minutes.

From Mr Walpole’s garden and house you have the most beautiful and charming prospect of Richmond, with variety of fine villas and gardens on the banks of the Thames, which river alone would sufficiently recommend any situation; though when I was there last, viz., in October and the beginning of November, 1762, the excessive rains which had lately fell had so swelled the river that it caused such inundations as were never known in the memory of man; insomuch that during my stay there, two islands just before the garden were totally covered by the waters and could not be seen. The floods did infinite mischief all over England, and particularly in Essex. At Cambridge it was within six inches of the highest flood ever known or recorded there, of which a mark is cut in the wall of King’s College Senior Fellows Garden, on the river’s bank; and the waters came into the cellars of Queens’ College in such a torrent that the butler had not time to go in to stop up the vessels, they having just newly filled their cellars for the year; by which means the water got in, and spoiled all their beer.’

29 October 1774
‘Very rainy day. I set out after breakfast, and went at the back of the town, through Padington, and through Hyde Park, and got to Twickenham by noon. Before dinner Mr Walpole walked with me into the garden to show me his newly erected Chapel, as he calls it, with the shrine in it from the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore at Rome, where it was erected in 1256, [. . .] It is a very curious monument of white marble, standing on twisted pillars, and inlaid with other rich marbles; [. . .] It is also mended and completed by the ingenious artist who erected the beautiful marble chimney-piece in the circular drawing room at the end of the gallery. This occupies the whole end of the chapel, the great and only window to which is filled with painted glass from Bexhill in Sussex. There are besides a strange jumble of crucifixes and profane ornaments. It is so small that half a dozen people will fill it. The front is exquisitely performed in the truest Gothic taste. [. . .]

What country this is, I was not curious to inquire. But I guess it to be Sussex, and near Chichester, where Mr Trevigar was beneficed, and as she seemed to be acquainted with the Guilford Road, whither I was going, about which she gave me instructions, as I was unacquainted with the way. He called her by the name of Mrs Day, which was, probably, her mother’s name. On her coming to town, and being informed of the story, she was instructed to apply to the Bishop, who was not disposed to lend a favourable ear to it; upon which, he drew up a letter for her, and omitted no circumstance to alarm the Bishop, who was well aware, as Mr Walpole said to me, that a bishop in his hands would meet with but little quarter; when, therefore, she was directed to add, by way of postscript, to direct his answer to her at Mr Horace Walpole’s in Arlington Street, it had its effect. And the Bishop proposed to give her the £600 or interest for that sum; and, accordingly, he contrived meanly, as Mr Walpole expressed it, to send her the interest the very day before quarter day, and by that means defrauded her of about £5, as well as I remember. This, Mr Walpole said, he was glad of, as the Bishop by so doing either cheated her, or owes her that sum to this day. Now I have related the story, as well as I can recollect it, I must needs add this caution about it. Mr Walpole is one of the most sanguine friends or enemies that I know. He has had a long pique, I well know, against the Bishop; and indeed his being a bishop is a sufficient reason for his spleen and satire. I love to hear both sides of the question. No doubt Bishop Keene had his reasons, right or wrong, for his acting in the manner he did. Mr Walpole added that he often met the Bishop, now his house is building in Dover Street, but that he always avoided looking at him and constantly held down his head. Mr Walpole best knows what occasions of goodness or shyness there may be between them. The Bishop, I allow, is as much puffed up with his dignities and fortune as any on the bench; and I believe Mr Walpole to be as likely to throw out contemptuous behaviour occasionally on those whom he supposes not to acknowledge his merit, or deserve his disregard, as any person living. They are both my friends, and I can see the blemishes in each. The Bishop was ever esteemed a most cheerful, generous, and good-tempered man. Great fortune with a wife and great dignity in the church often make the wisest men forget themselves. Mr Walpole is one of the best writers, an admirable poet, one of the most lively, ingenious, and witty persons of the age; but a great share of vanity, eagerness of adulation, as Mr Gray observed to me, a violence and warmth in party matters, and lately even to enthusiasm, abates, and take off from, many of his shining qualities. I have given the story as it was related to me, without reserves or caution whatever. I mean to take notice of it to no one; though I make no doubt but Mr Walpole, as he told it to me, has done the same to others. His zeal against churchmen and the church carries him to such lengths as is scarcely consistent with a wise and ingenuous heart.

On a secretaire, as it is called, or upright writing-stand or desk, in the breakfasting room, which commands a delicious prospect across the Thames up to Richmond Hill, is a most delicate and elegant small statue of Cupid sitting, winged, and holding up one hand, in the Seve or St Cloud manufacture, in white; and on a cartouche in front is this inscription. Cupid sits on a bank or hillock ornamented with roses.’